The Republicans gave us Trump, and the Democrats gave us just about the only candidate so compromised and unloved that she could lose to Trump. Utter catastrophe ensues.
I do understand that this narrative will have no appeal to unconflicted Clinton supporters, many of whom I proudly call close friends. To them, this was just good losing to evil. I get that. I'm also aware (or was made aware by my sister-in-law) that this is a real disaster, with probable terrible effects on real people, and that it reveals something sinister and abominable about America, and that those two things are the main story. (Whereas my point is something of a snide I-told-you-so.) I also know that those most to blame for Trump are: Trump, and his supporters (and the Republican Party).
But it remains the case that Bernie Sanders would have trounced Trump; and virtually any remotely credible Democrat would have beaten him. But, no it had to be Hillary. And, fairly or not (and I'm actually of many minds about whether this is fair, and fear I might have it wrong), tens of millions of people just find her totally unpalatable, and absolutely emblematic of the entrenched political power and privilege that so many people are so damned sick of. It's terrifying that there are Trump supporters but there are so many “Never Hillary” people. And they put Trump in office. No Hillary, no President Trump. Trump is pure evil; but Clintons are pure self-interest and, as usual, the country didn't come first.
The Guardian put it better than I can:
What the hell went wrong? What species of cluelessness guided our Democratic leaders as they went about losing what they told us was the most important election of our lifetimes?
Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment.
She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Had winning been the party's number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go. There was Joe Biden, with his powerful plainspoken style, and there was Bernie Sanders, an inspiring and largely scandal-free figure. Each of them would probably have beaten Trump, but neither of them would really have served the interests of the party insiders.
And so Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.
If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they'd chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn't mean what they said about Trump's riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country's well-being, or maybe both.
As another friend put it: “This election should have been a slam dunk for the Democrats. Bernie would've won by a landslide. Instead the DNC attempted to force a coronation and the people were having none of it.” (I actually see that as one of the very few very tiny bright spots: at least Americans declined to coronate this dynasty again. Another one: at least we'll get a peaceful transfer of power, which lamentably wasn't guaranteed with the other outcome.)
In any case, the two-party system went critical and melted down a perfect storm, resulting in perfect horror and absurdity.
I'm also aware that in many swing states, Clinton lost by less than the combined votes that went to third parties (Johnson & Stein). And believe me I've agonized about this some. Did my support of Johnson help cause this? First of all, I never really imagined Trump would win. (Even now it's unimaginable.) But, mainly, there are always third parties. (Unless you want to outlaw them.) They're part of the terrain on which the campaign is waged. And their take of the vote was tiny. Blaming them is like blaming the 3mph wind when your drive is 30 degrees off into the woods. It's also worth remembering that a lot of support for the third-party candidates was precisely because the two major candidates were so unpalatable.
But too much recrimination. I'll only repeat one more time that the current two-party system is, now self-evidently, a total disaster. And by believing that we can only vote for a Republican or a Democrat, we perpetuate it.
Finally, perhaps the best and only consolation I can offer is this truly remarkable speech by President Obama:
What a statesman, what a beautiful and brilliant man. He understands that the system of American democracy, and keeping the country from ripping itself apart, are much more important than the outcome of any one election. And he is doing what is needed and what is best for the country now. He even almost convinces us that it's all going to be okay.
Clinton's concession speech was incredibly admirable, as well. Slightly ashamed to say it, but I've never liked her more.
And now, I have cancelled my digital subscriptions to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the New Yorker. And I shall return to my quiet life of untroubled oblivion to (as Nassim Taleb puts it) that ritualized gossip we call “news”, and back to productive work.
(Also, the commenter previously pointed me toward this outstanding piece by the estimable David Wong that explains Trumpism in terms with which anybody ought to be able to empathize.)